What I Focus My Attention on Gets Bigger

We had a scary event this week that gave be an opportunity to take a look at how I can cause so much angst and misery for myself.

We were sitting inside the enclosure with our boat buddies, Bill and Maryellen, enjoying dinner, music and conversation. It was a rainy and windy night, just after dark. We were on the free park docks in Jacksonville which were full except for a small space behind us. We had moved as close as possible to the boat in front of us but to move any closer would have required us sharing a cleat and we didn’t want to do that in the wind. The boat behind the empty slip also chose not to move so the empty space was enough for maybe a 25 ft boat and required a “parallel park” job to get in.

So imagine my surprise when a sailboat shows up beside the boat with the Captain at the helm yelling something! I opened the enclosure to hear what he was saying and he asked if I thought he could fit in the slip behind us. I looked at the size of his boat and responded I didn’t think it was a good idea. I figured he’d anchor nearby. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw his boat moving swiftly towards us. I screamed that he was going to crash into us and we all moved into action. Other sailors on the dock came out just as he crashed into the side of Solveig, pinning us cockeyed, up against the dock. We went up on the deck, trying to fend off the other boat. The captain was in the bow and threw some lines to people on the dock. He was going to try to get his boat into the slip! As his bow moved closer, it got trapped on our dingy which was up on davits. The pressure was pushing the dinghy and the davits and moving them out of position. We dropped the dinghy, releasing the pressure and fended off with boat hooks the best we could as we inched him into the slip. We got him tied up and the immediate danger was over.

The interesting thing is what happened next. We talked about how dangerous that was, how stupid it was of him to come in after dark. WE would have never done something so careless and would have just dropped anchor instead. The more we talked, the angrier I became. In fact, that night, instead of sleeping, I thought about all the things that COULD have happened. We could’ve destroyed our brand new dinghy and davits. Someone could of lost an arm or a leg trying to fend off in the strong winds. We could have permanently damaged Solveig and destroyed all our hopes of living our dream and cruising. Wow! I really worked myself into a tizzy! I got very little sleep and woke up angry and irritable.

Was that really necessary? Did it change the outcome any to have a night without sleep and angry emotions stirring around all night? Did any of my “COULDs” actually happen? NO! Then what purpose did it serve.

The event was a reminder to me to watch my “self talk”. I am responsible for my own happiness or lack thereof. Yes, the event was scary and yes the fear in the moment was real and justified but all the talk afterwards was my own self creating my own misery. The more I focused on it, thought about it, ruminated on it, the bigger it got…The scarier it got and the more it robbed me of my joy.

The next morning, I heard the guy talking to others on the dock. He had been out in the ocean all day getting beat to hell in the waves. His girlfriend had recently left him and he was single handing his boat. He came over to our boat and offered a sincere apology and admitted to making poor decisions. He gave us his insurance information. He made a comment, “Someone has to be the dock idiot and last night it was my turn.” It reminded me that we ALL make bad decisions at some time or another. I know Robert and I have and we most likely will take another turn at being the “dock idiot” in the future. As he talked, empathy and compassion replaced the anger.

In our relationships, in our work, in our world…When I focus on all the things that are “wrong” or bad, those things get bigger. When I work to solve problems but focus on what’s good, working, helpful, those things get bigger.

These days, it’s easy to spiral down into all the “hard” things. The health of our family after losing 2 to Covid-19 and our eldest generation being sick is a constant concern. My mom’s cancer. My cousin's cancer. My aunt’s healing from removal of a brain tumor... We can’t visit all the beautiful towns people have told us about without risking our health. We can’t be with our families for the holidays without risking our health. We have an uncertain economy. So many have died. I could ruminate on any one of these and talk myself into a nice depression. But why? Would it change anything? No.

So today I commit myself to celebrating thanksgiving by focusing my attention on all the things we have to be thankful for. We have a way to self -isolate that is also fun. We have terrific boat buddies to spend the holidays with who are quickly becoming like family. We have beautiful sunsets and sunrises, beaches, different terrains, and creatures to experience instead of cites. We have the wonderful temperatures and cool breezes and rocking boat that anchoring allows…So much to be thankful for…

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